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Currently, the National Immunisation Programme offers the HPV vaccine to girls in their first year of secondary school. HIQA’s health technology assessment is reviewing the clinical and cost-effectiveness of extending this programme to include vaccinating boys in their first year of secondary school as well.
HIQA’s Director of Health Technology Assessment and Deputy Chief Executive, Dr Máirín Ryan, said: “HPV infection presents a significant and increasing health burden in both males and females, but currently only girls are offered the vaccine. On average, 539 cases of cancer associated with HPV infection are diagnosed every year in Ireland, including cervical, anal, penile and oropharyngeal cancers. HPV infection is also responsible for genital warts, with 90% of these caused by HPV types that are included in the vaccine.”
HIQA’s report has been published for public consultation and the assessment found that vaccinating both boys and girls would have considerable health benefits.
Dr Máirín Ryan continued: “From reviewing the evidence, HIQA has found that the HPV vaccine is safe and is effective at preventing infection with HPV. Extending the current girls-only HPV immunisation programme to include boys would reduce HPV- related disease in males and females in Ireland, improving patient-related outcomes and reducing mortality from HPV-related cancers.”
Minister for Health Simon Harris has welcomed the commencement of the consultation process.
Minister Harris said, “I requested HIQA to undertake this Health Technology Assessment, which will establish the clinical and cost-effectiveness of providing the vaccine to boys. This public consultation is an important part of the process and I encourage people to take this opportunity to give their views. This Government is supportive of the extension of the HPV programme to boys and it will be prioritised should the HTA make a positive recommendation. I am encouraged to hear the HIQA assessment has found that vaccinating both boys and girls would have considerable health benefits and that it reiterates that the vaccine is safe and effective at preventing infection with HPV.”
The Minister added, “Cervical cancer impacts the lives of almost 7,000 women in Ireland every year. Vaccination teams will be returning to schools in September to administer the HPV vaccine to girls in first year and I encourage parents to ensure that their daughters receive this important life-saving vaccine”.